Photo of James Shepherd Dining Table
  • Artifact:

    James Shepherd Dining Table

  • Time Period:

    Unknown, likely between 1810 and 1829.

  • Description:

    Mahogany, single drop-leaf, D-shaped table, signed by James Shepherd in chalk on the underside of the table top.

  • Benefactor:

    Gift of Georgia Lee McElhaney

James Shepherd was the youngest son of Thomas (2nd) and Susannah Shepherd and the grandson of Shepherdstown founder Thomas Shepherd and his wife Elizabeth.  In his will dated September 29, 1792 and recorded in Berkeley County, VA Will Book 2, 1788-1796, Thomas Shepherd (2nd) declared “It is my will that my Sons Thomas, David, John, Joseph and James should be bound out to such Trades and at such times as they with the Consent of my executors may choose.” We know that James Shepherd became a cabinetmaker, but the dates of his apprenticeship, the cabinetmaker he was bound to and the length of time he worked in Shepherdstown are all unknown.  An August 1810 advertisement in the Farmer’s Repository, a Charles Town, VA newspaper, announced the commencement of the Shepherd & Woods Cabinet Manufactory near the market house in Shepherdstown.  The partners were Andrew Woods, a cabinetmaker in Charles Town, VA at the time and, though not specifically identified, James Shepherd.  In January that same year, James Shepherd sold his interest in the Shepherd Grist Mill to his brother Thomas.  Court records show that James Shepherd was making coffins as late as 1829. A privately owned Sheraton chest with a James Shepherd label contains a penciled date of 1828. With this information we know for certain that Shepherd was in business from 1810 to 1829.

This mahogany, single drop-leaf, D-shaped table was likely part of a two or three piece dining table as indicated by mortises in the edge of the drop leaf that would accept tenons on the edge of another section of the ensemble.  The table top, drop leaf, rail on the drop-leaf side and legs are mahogany; rails on the curved side of the table are pine with mahogany veneer facing.  The legs are square and gently tapered.  There is little ornamentation on the table save for a three-sixteenth inch wide veneer band along the lower edge of the rails and across the outer face of each leg.  The name James Shepherd is signed in chalk on the underside of the table top.


The table top and drop leaf are rule-joined and secured with three recessed butt hinges.  Screws set in wells on the interior of the rails secure the top to the frame.  The curved-side rails consists of four horizontally laminated pine boards that are finger-joined at the round corners. The inner rail on the drop-leaf side is mahogany and secured to the top with two screws set in wells and further reinforced with  square vertical glue blocks in the corners where the inner rail meets the laminated rails.  A medial bracket is nailed to chamfered glue blocks attached to the rails.  The outer fixed rail on the drop-leaf side is mahogany attached with nails driven through from the inner rail.  The swing rail is attached with knuckle joints to the fixed rail.  The leg on the swing rail is likely mortise and tenon joined and overlaps the inner rail when closed.  The other legs are attached to the rails with bridle joints.

Overall, the table is 42 1/4 inches deep, 29 inches high, 20 1/8 inches wide when closed and 40 1/4 inches wide when open.


As mentioned earlier, this is only one section of a two- or three-part dining table.  Otherwise, the table appears to be in original condition.